Archive for the ‘People/HR’ Category

Thursday, November 19th, 2020

Stealing Your People

“Immature poets imitate, mature poets steal.” – T. S. Eliot

It’s been going on for decades. There are people who get paid to help you steal people from your competitors.

Most of them are incentivized recruiters who use all types of methods to find experienced accountants who might be dissatisfied with their current employment status.

Recently, I heard a discussion among practice managers (firm administrators), that one firm did not feature their team members on their website because it made it easier for head-hunters to find people to contact and entice them away. Others agreed that it was a good idea.

I do not agree. I believe there are more benefits to featuring your team on your website than dangers. Featuring them is saying that you are proud of them and that they are qualified professionals taking care of your clients. It is also a boost for your administrative team. Your new hires (recent college graduates) are thrilled to be able to tell their relatives and friends that they should check out your website and see their picture.

If you are losing people to recruiters, it is your fault.

  • Maybe your culture isn’t clearly defined and protected.
  • Maybe you have an abusive partner/manager or two.
  • Maybe everyone is not living up to the firm’s published core values.
  • Maybe you aren’t keeping pace with salaries for your different levels of experience.
  • Maybe the communication within your firm is poor. It’s the one I hear the most about!
  • And maybe, as leaders, you simply are not saying, “Thank you for your efforts,” enough.

If you are losing good people, look in the mirror.

  • He who steals a little steals with the same wish as he who steals much, but with less power.
  • Plato

Tuesday, November 10th, 2020

Hard Work

“A dream does not become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work.”  – Colin Powell

As part of the CPAFMA Strategy Leadership & Growth Accelerator Session yesterday, I was asked to talk for just 10  minutes about TALENT. Because I am again speaking today on TALENT, I decided to approach it from a different angle for the Strategy session  If you want to hear more of the nitty-gritty about hiring, interviewing, and retaining employees, please tune in today when I will be part of the Talent & People Accelerator.

We hear Talent talked about so much in the CPA profession. Let’s explore what we really mean by the word “Talent.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, when larger firms were shedding people (mostly poor performers), I anticipated that more qualified people would be in the job market and firms below the Top 100 might attract some people who were experienced and capable.

What I am seeing is that didn’t happen. All of my clients and other firms in my sphere tell me that they are trying (several, almost desperately) to find more people with the skills and desire to work and succeed in public accounting.

Recently, I listened to a Ted talk by Suzanne Lucas @realevilhrlady. She writes and advises on HR topics. The subject of her Ted talk was FORGET TALENT AND GET TO WORK. I agree with her viewpoint on this and feel like it is an issue in the CPA profession. It is only 8 minutes long, you should listen to it.

She talked about Talent and the use of the word in hiring. Sometimes the words we use distort our intentions. We don’t talk about people anymore. We talk about Talent. Look at the titles of many of the webinars you have attended and articles you have read!  We talk about talent management and talent assessment and we moan about talent shortages.

For example, here are some titles of articles in CPA publications:

  • The Accounting Profession: Talents that Matter
  • How to Motivate & Retain Your Talent (JofA)
  • How to Win the Game of Talent (JofA)
  • Where Should You be Looking for Top Talent (AT)
  • I have spoken and written on the topic of Hiring and Retaining Top Talent numerous times!

We seem to think that talent is something you are born with. That a 4.0 GPA means you have talent. In our world, what talent means is you have the above-average ability to master accounting firm work very rapidly.

The definition of the word is: A special often athletic, creative, or artistic aptitude. b : general intelligence or mental power : ability. 2 : the natural endowments of a person. 

If we believe that music requires talent and that we could never do it – we are wrong. We probably could.

People that made a true impact in the world did it through hard work. Yes, Mozart composed his first piece of music at age 5, and, yes he was talented. Lin-Manuel Miranda says it took him about seven years to write Hamilton. It took him one year alone to write the second song in the show, “My Shot.” He did it through hard work and dedication.

What we really seek are people who are trainable and can develop skills. Skill is something you gain through hard work and dedication.

Could I learn to paint or learn to play the piano? Of course. I don’t have natural talent but I could do it through a lot of hard work.

I never did the hard work to be able to run a marathon – I could have but I preferred ice cream and long leisurely walks.

When we are hiring, we need to ask, “Can this person learn what we have to teach?” Does she have the determination to learn hard things? We all know that fresh college accounting graduates can’t do the work in public accounting right away but do they have the grit to learn? Have they worked hard in the past? Have they failed and then succeeded?

I have heard many, many very successful CPA partners say “I certainly didn’t have a 4.0 GPA.” The average student (not considered top talent) has often become an expert and a very highly-compensated CPA firm partner.

Just about anybody can learn just about anything if they are willing to work hard.

Google asked what makes great employees and perfect grades were not at the top of the list. What was? Listening, critical thinking and problem solving.

It isn’t all about being endowed with natural talent, it is about the hard work of building skills.

CPA firms should be more willing to make significant investments in quality training & development. If more focus was put on training/development you might find that you have more productive and skilled people working at your firm, formerly considered average performers. I still hear horror stories about new hires more or less being thrown to the wolves, so to speak.

Many years ago, I began to talk about team members rather than using the words staff or employees. I thought if we used the word TEAM enough we might actually become one. Why not put more focus on seeking team members who are willing to work hard and develop the skills necessary to be CPA and not stress the word TALENT so much?

I still believe that it takes grit and perseverance to become successful in the public accounting world. Look for people who have demonstrated passion and dedication followed by hard work to build skills. They will succeed.

  • Men die of boredom, psychological conflict and disease. They do not die of hard work.
  • David Ogilvy, advertising business tycoon

Friday, November 6th, 2020

This & That For Friday

“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

For this Friday’s flashback post, read about having a commitment statement and how one can be designed to notify your clients of your commitments to them and informing them what commitments you expect from them. Samples are included.

Don’t forget about the CPAFMA Virtual Accelerator Program coming up on Monday and Tuesday. I’ll be involved both days and there are a wide variety of helpful sessions.

Yesterday, I had a great time talking with (via Zoom) with a group of partners from different firms who get together to network and learn from each other a couple of times per year.

I am hearing a lot about hiring from my clients and contacts. Every firm is looking for experienced people – that is nothing new but the demand seems to have increased in urgency as we approach another tax season.

The hybrid model of CPA workforces is gaining strength – Hybrid meaning sometimes in the office and sometimes remotely. It seems to be desired by a growing number of team members. Sometimes it is nice to get away from home and actually work in the office.

Have a calming and enjoyable weekend. Be kind.

  • Reflect upon your present blessings -- of which every man has many -- not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.
  • Charles Dickens

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020

Attendance Policy

Do you have an attendance policy? I have observed that many CPA firms do not have a clearly defined policy and if they do have one, it is doubtful that they are enforcing it.

You need to have an attendance policy and enforce it, especially with so many employees now working remotely.” – Suzanne Lucas 

Suzanne Lucas, aka Evil HR Lady, gives us reasons why such a policy is important in a recent article.

She gives the example of an employee who called in to say that they had 40 hours in as of Thursday and they were taking Friday off and not counting it as PTO. Lucas’ advice: “Say no. Honestly, it’s that simple.”

Per this HR expert: “You are within your rights as an employer to set an absentee policy that makes sense for your business. You need work done, and that’s why you hire employees. This does not mean that your employees should devote their entire lives to your business, nor does it mean you let them walk all over you. When you’re talking about attendance, you need a good policy.”

I have observed similar situations within accounting firms and it seems to always cause indecisiveness and even confusion about how to handle these situations. In these times of being almost desperate to retain skilled people, CPA leaders are often simply afraid to say “No” to anything.

The article contains a sample attendance policy and a lot of other good information. Read it here.

  • Be kind and flexible, but make sure your employees know they need to work every day.
  • Suzanne Lucas

Wednesday, September 30th, 2020

CPA Exam Benefits

“I’m forever testing myself. As a person and as an actor, I have no sense of competition.” – Michael Caine

I often receive inquiries about the benefits package a public accounting firm should offer. My advice? Be generous!

For example, firms approach paying for the CPA Exam and for the pre-exam study course in varying manners. Of course, some firms are more generous than others.

You are a CPA firm. You need CPAs. Communicate this fact to all your new accounting graduates (and others who have not yet passed the Exam).

Here’s an example of an Exam policy:

John Doe & Company CPA Exam Policy

(Name of firm) is first and foremost a CPA firm. The expectation has always been that, as soon as possible, each of us will sit for and pass the CPA exam. Including our college education, it is the completion of the basics and the foundation that each of us need to practice the profession of public accounting.

Effectively immediately, the firm’s policy on passing the exam is as follows:

  1. For new college graduates joining the firm, the expectation is that you will complete the exam by your two year anniversary with the firm.
  2. For the existing team, the expectation is that you will have it completed within two years of today’s date.
  3. As you will see in the firm’s goal-setting process, if you have not passed the exam your number one goal will be to do so. The achievement of this goal will have a significant impact on your compensation.
  4. Although we do not want to focus on the negative, if the exam is not completed within the above time frames it will be a serious impediment to your career with the firm. We will evaluate each situation on an individual basis.   

We are disassociating the passing of the exam to staff levels within the firm. In other words, you no longer have to have the exam passed to be promoted to senior. The level at which you are performing will be the only factor that determines your title.

We are enhancing our benefits related to the CPA exam as follows:

  • We will pay for 100% of Becker, Surgent, or another review course approved by the firm. This will be paid upfront and will be refundable to the firm if you do not complete the review course.
  • We will now pay the 50% reimbursement of exam fees upfront with no maximum.
  • The firm will pay a $1,000 bonus upon certification from the state licensing agency and will also have your certificate professionally framed.

To summarize, passing the exam is your top priority. The firm will do everything that we can to help you and to accommodate the process. We hope that the enhancements above will make a difference. But, you have to take it and pass it. Please give it the importance that it deserves in your career. 

Again, my message to all firms is to be generous.

  • Everything you want is out there waiting for you to ask. Everything you want also wants you. But you have to take action to get it.
  • Jack Canfield

Tuesday, September 8th, 2020

Accounting Graduates

“I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies.” – Lawrence Bossidy

There are reports that tell us that the number of accounting graduates being hired is steadily declining. Yet, many firms are still saying that they need people.

In some firms, the “need people” has come to mean they need more non-accounting graduates, such as people with more advanced technology skills.

Per Todd Shapiro, CEO of the Illinois CPA society says, in an article via Accounting today: “Hiring of accounting graduates is down 30 percent. That’s a massive decline in hiring of accounting graduates by CPA firms. This isn’t companies that traditionally haven’t hired accounting graduates that aren’t CPAs. These are accounting firms.”

I was surprised by this statement from Barry Melancon a few years ago: Today we are a profession of CPA-led firms, not CPA firms. Two-thirds of the employees in all firms are non-CPAs.

Shapiro notes that firms are hiring more non-accounting graduates. It only makes sense to me that accounting students need to be sure that they have more advanced technology skills than at any time in the past.

If you didn’t read the article by Michael Cohn (via Accounting Today), you should.

  • You can dream, create, design and build the most wonderful place in the world…but it requires people to make the dream a reality.
  • Walt Disney

Friday, August 21st, 2020

Repeated Mistakes

“When you repeat a mistake, it is not a mistake anymore: it is a decision.” – Paulo Coelho

One comment I hear over and over again from clients and others in the CPA profession is that very often, new people continue to make the same mistakes over and over again.

The solution often turns out to be that the reviewer of the work “fixes” the mistakes and moves the job along the workflow system. Reviewers should send the work back to the preparer (for obvious reasons).

If you are new to working in the CPA profession, read this flashback post about repeating a mistake. It is titled New Beginnings.

  • When you make a mistake, there are only three things you should ever do about it: admit it, learn from it, and don’t repeat it.
  • Paul Bear Bryant

Wednesday, August 19th, 2020

Childcare

“I sustain myself with the love of family.” – Maya Angelou

School districts across the country are opening up. There is no consistency. From state-to-state and even district-to-district schedules are varying. Some are part-time in-person classes mixed with online learning. Some schools will be full-time online for many weeks.

This does present huge problems to working adults. The kids needs a parent to help guide them through the online learning maze.

Has hour firm explored the benefits you can provide to help your valued staff deal with this new reality. You need them and their family need them. PwC has increased/modified their benefit package per an informative article via Accounting Today.

They are offering:

  • Protected time
  • Reduced schedules
  • Compressed workweek
  • Flex-time
  • Sabbatical
  • Backup care reimbursement
  • Tutoring services

Read the article to learn more about each offering. Hopefully, it will give you some ideas about what to do for your team and their families.

  • Family is a life jacket in the stormy sea of life.
  • J. K. Rowling

Monday, June 15th, 2020

Followership & Servant Leadership

“Power should be reserved for weightlifting and boats, and leadership really involves responsibility. – Herb Kelleher

I have written about the importance of followership and servant leadership on a few occasions. Most recently on May 18, 2020.

Over my many years working in public accounting, I have observed many outstanding leaders who were, in their formative years, excellent followers. I have also observed many partner teams who were missing good followers.

Last week, I read an excellent article by Sharlyn Lauby (@HRBartender) titled: Servant Leadership: Excellent Leaders are Good Followers.

She shares a quote by a leader I always admired, Herb Kelleher – “To be an excellent leader, you have to be a superb follower.”

Lauby gives us some background on servant leadership and the importance of followership as part of that.

Read her article to learn more about Robert Greenleaf who is credited with starting Servant Leadership. Also, learn more about some basic competencies associated with servant leadership.

  1. Commitment to developing people
  2. Empathy
  3. Listening
  4. Conceptualization
  5. Foresight
  6. Awareness

When it is time to choose a new partner or a successor for your current managing partner, consider their followership and servant leadership skills.

  • Don't assume, because you are intelligent, able, and well-motivated, that you are open to communication, that you know how to listen.
  • Robert Greenleaf

Friday, May 29th, 2020

The Power of Recognition

“I can no other answer make but thanks, and thanks, and ever thanks.” – William Shakespeare

This week for my Friday Flashback post, I hope you will take a few minutes to read about the importance of “Hello. Good Morning. Thank-you.”

It’s a post from April 2014 and it still applies today. You might even find the 3-minute video helpful that is referenced in the post.

You are probably beginning to welcome people back into the office. Keep in mind that your people need appreciation and recognition, in person, and also when they are working remotely.

Have a great weekend.

  • We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.
  • Cynthia Ozick